Aren't all cows free range?
It is now estimated that 20 percent of dairy cows in the UK are confined indoors all year round. Many farmers still graze their cows day and night in the spring and summer months, but they are not getting any reward for it and consumers can't choose milk from grazing herds. Due to crippling milk prices many farmers see no alternative but to milk more cows and push for higher milk yields as a way to stay in business. We believe in another way which is why we set up Free Range Dairy Network and the Pasture Promise label. A new way to give people a clear choice on the type of dairy system they want to support. We ask farmers to make a clear commitment to grazing their cows for 180 days and nights a year and Free Range Dairy Network works with farmers to promote the true value of cows in field
Why 180 days?
The Free Range Dairy Network believes that if milk is to be labelled as ‘Free Range’, the cows really need to be out in fields for no less than half the year. The weather varies from year to year, sometimes making grazing difficult and, in certain parts of country, the grass is slower to grow in spring. A number of farmers are able to graze for considerably longer than 180 days, but the Pasture Promise logo sets the bar at a point where they have to demonstrate a clear commitment to grazing cows in spring and summer, whilst consistently being able meet the required standards.
Aren’t free range cows the same as everyone else’s for half of the year (in winter)?
Farmers producing Free Range Dairy Farmers milk do house their cows in the winter months, because they are often better off indoors at this time, when the fields are wet and muddy and the grass stops growing. But farmers are still required to maintain a high level of grass in the diet, in the form of silage or hay. The Pasture Promise logo represents a clearly defined farming system founded on seasonal grazing.
Is there a legal definition for free range milk production in the UK?
Unlike free range eggs, there are currently no laws in place to define free range milk production. Some processors and retailers give the impression that all cows supplying their milk graze on grass but Free Range dairy Network have devised a set of standards that clearly defines what Free Range means. The Pasture Promise logo on Free Range Dairy Farmers milk means that it is backed by a set of standards that require farmers to graze their cows for a minimum of 180 days a year. Note, these standards require farmers to graze their cows at night time as well and cows cannot be kept indoors for more than one hour after milking. Farms are independently assessed by a recognised certification body, to ensure they meet the standards required for the production of milk bearing the Pasture Promise logo.
Do free range cows produce healthier milk?
There is growing evidence that milk from grass contains higher levels of healthy fats like Omega-3 and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and it’s great to be able to turn this abundant green grass that humans can’t digest into a healthy, nutritious milk that we can. Even if milk was double the price it would still be an incredibly cost effective nutritious food source.
Will Free Range Dairy Farmers milk cost me more?
You will be asked to pay more for Free Range Dairy Farmers milk. This is because we want to return a fair reward to farmers and, also, there are additional costs associated with the segregation of milk from free range herds, when it is collected from farms and processed. We want Free Range Dairy Farmers milk to be an affordable, ethical milk choice for consumers everywhere. But, we hope you will think about the real value our milk delivers, not just the price.
How can I be sure free range cows are actually grazed for six months a year?
Free Range Dairy Network requires farmers keep a number of records that provide evidence their cows are grazed for 180 days and nights a year. Before allowing farmers to supply milk under the Pasture Promise label they visit the farms to establish their capacity and commitment to graze cows. The farms are then independently audited by a professional body; to ensure they comply with our standards. Free Range Dairy Network also reserve the right to carry out spot checks on any farms that are found to be non-compliant.
Are free range cows fed a 100% grass diet?
Free range dairy cows are not fed 100% grass diets. Although grass is the key component of the diet all year round. They enjoy fresh grazed grass in spring and summer and grass conserved as silage or hay in winter. However, producers are permitted to feed limited amounts of other feeds such as cereals, arable silage crops and bought in proteins. This is particularly important in the winter months, as hay and silage often contain insufficient nutrients to sustain milk production. Free Range Dairy farmers must provide the cows with a diet comprised of no less than 60% forage (calculated on a dry matter basis).
The milk I buy has images of cows in fields – doesn’t that mean it’s free range?
Images of cows in fields are widely used in supermarkets and on packaging for milk and dairy products. However, this does not provide any guarantee that the cows producing your milk are grazed. Big dairy companies and supermarkets mix milk from all kinds of farms and so milk from grazing herds is not segregated. Free Range Dairy has a dedicated pick up and segregation of milk. Milk carrying the Pasture Promise logo is not mixed with milk from intensive dairy herds.
What happens to the cows at times of flooding or extreme heat in the grazing season?
If extreme weather conditions threaten the health and welfare of the cows during the grazing season, farmers are permitted to temporarily house their cows. Farmers must notify Free Range Dairy Network of their intention to house the cows when they make that decision and let them know when they return to the fields.
What can I do to support Free Range Dairy farmers?
Free Range Dairy Farmers milk offer you a more informed choice about the way cows are cared for on farms. We want to promote the way milk is produced on farms and the value that grazing herds deliver for farmers, cows and consumers. The best way to help us is by asking for FREE RANGE DAIRY FARMERS MILK with the Pasture Promise logo at your local supermarket.